Sunday, 7 October 2012

Vintage American year?

This migrant male American Yellow Warbler was photographed on the coast of Maine, New England, in early August this year. Such birds can cross the Atlantic rapidly if they get caught up in fast-moving depressions.
Finally, autumn is shaping up nicely. Very nicely. Birders tend to measure this time of year in terms of the 'quality' of vagrants, and on that basis we seem to be on track for a classic this year. Looking purely at Nearctic landbird vagrants, the diversity of species found on this side of the Atlantic so far has been notable; Britain has fared well but shared the spoils with Ireland, the Azores and France. Here's a summary of North American landbird vagrants recorded so far this autumn, assembled from online research (all records subject to acceptance):
  • Northern Harrier Wexford, Ireland, 6-7 Oct
  • American Mourning Dove Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland, 5 Sep (caught by cat; died in captivity 13 Sep)
  • Belted Kingfisher Santa Maria, Azores, 3 & 21 Sep; Galway, Ireland, 5-6 Oct; Flores, Azores, 7 Oct
  • Eastern Kingbird Galway, Ireland, 5 Oct (first Western Palearctic record)
  • American Cliff Swallow Ile d'Ouessant, France, 3-7 Oct; Corvo, Azores, 7 Oct (4+)
  • Buff-bellied Pipit At least five reported in Britain and two in Ireland (including the first record for Northern Ireland)
  • Grey-cheeked Thrush St Agnes, Scilly, 6-7 Oct
  • Swainson's Thrush Foula, Britain, 23 Sep; Barra, Britain, 2-4 Oct
  • White-eyed Vireo Flores, Azores, 6 Oct (fourth Western Palearctic record)
  • Red-eyed Vireo Shetland, Britain, 12-15 Sep (earliest-ever British record); Corvo, Azores, 4 Oct, presumed new bird (different location) 5 Oct; Terceira, Azores, 7 Oct.
  • Northern Waterthrush Corvo, Azores, 6 Oct
  • Magnolia Warbler Fair Isle, Shetland, Britain, 23 Sep
  • Myrtle Warbler Dursey Is, Cork, Ireland, 3-6 Oct; Inishmore, Galway, Ireland, 6 Oct (1+)
  • Blackpoll Warbler Inishmore, Galway, Ireland, 7 Oct
  • Scarlet Tanager Flores, Azores, 6 Oct
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak Corvo, Azores, 5-6 Oct (2 on latter date)
  • Indigo Bunting Corvo, Azores, 4 Oct, presumed different bird 6 Oct
  • Bobolink Corvo, Azores, 22 Sep, presumed different bird 5 Oct
Sources: Azores Bird Sightings (, Irish Birding (, Netfugl (, Rare Bird Alert (

That's a total of 38 individuals of 18 Nearctic landbird species so far, with plenty of the migration season left to run. I've factored shorebirds out of the equation as waders from North America reach Europe (especially Britain and Ireland) every autumn in varying numbers, almost regardless of the weather. But special mention must be made of yesterday's report from Santa Maria, Azores, of 255 White-rumped Sandpipers on the island, including a single flock of 150 birds; this was followed today by another 100 at Cabo da Praia on Terceira, and 17+ with at least three Baird's Sandpipers on Flores. Such numbers are wholly unprecedented on the European side of the Atlantic and, as more birders arrive in the archipelago for the critical mid-October fortnight, it remains to be seen what else will be discovered there.

I will be back in the Azores shortly, most of the time leading the annual Birdwatch magazine reader holiday, and as always Nearctic landbirds will be a priority for our group. After 10 previous visits my Azores list includes 44 species from across the pond (excluding North American forms such as Kumlien's Gull and American Black Tern not (yet) accepted at species level), and there seems every chance that we'll find or see something new this time. Fingers crossed ...

* Internet access is often difficult while travelling around the islands, but check back soon for updates to this blog, and follow the news on Twitter via @birdingetc.

1 comment:

  1. Anything of that calibre on the south esat coast (Kent) would be welcome. It's been a bit cack here this year.



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